Breastfeeding Advice: Separating the Good from the Bad

Breastfeeding Advice - Separating the Good from the BadWe all know that there is a lot of misinformation bandied about regarding breastfeeding. Those well-meaning family members and friends imparting breastfeeding advice may not have successfully breastfed for long, if at all, and their good intentions could end up damaging your breastfeeding relationship.

A great example I can think of is a friend of mine whose mother-in-law told her that she should only be feeding her newborn daughter for ten minutes on each side – likely the advice she was given when her children were born, as per the recommendations at the time – which ended up negatively impacting on her supply and causing a lot of grief.

Some other crackers I have heard include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

“Babies shouldn’t need to feed more than every 3 hours or so, if they do then you probably don’t have enough milk.”

“If you get thrush it’s best to stop breastfeeding because it can turn into mastitis.” (I actually know somebody personally who quit breastfeeding their 3 month old babe because they believed this to be true.)

“Breastmilk has no nutritional value after the age of 8 months; after that it’s just not necessary.” (Big thankyou to ‘Supernanny’ Jo Frost for this one…)

“Breastmilk doesn’t have enough iron in it for babies once they are 6 months old.”

“If you drink alcohol when you’re breastfeeding it will poison your baby.”


…So it’s not so hard to see how those well-meaning yet inaccurate pieces of advice can be detrimental to a fledgling breastfeeding relationship.

Following are a list of top tips that I have heard over the years, many of which have helped me at one time or another. I sincerely hope that they may help somebody else at some point!

  • Surrender to your baby, especially in the first few months of life. Accept that you are the only food source for your baby and try to relax and enjoy the responsibility of feeding them. It feels like you’ll be sat on the couch feeding for the rest of your life, but I swear you wont – and you’ll miss it when it’s over, trust me. You’ll even miss the frequent night feeds.
  • Feed frequently, as often as your baby wants to. Scheduling feeds can lead to milk supply dwindling, as well as problems with blocked ducts and mastitis.
  • If you have to return to work before your baby will be old enough to use a cup, it’s best to introduce a bottle for the first time as soon after 4-6 weeks as possible. You don’t need to give bottles often as you don’t want to cause nipple confusion, but introducing one at this stage (maybe giving just one bottle of expressed milk each week) increases the likelihood of your baby accepting one later on. I learnt this the hard way! However, there are many ways you can feed a baby milk other than a bottle, so it may not be worth the risk to introduce one at all. My oldest happily swapped between the two from a young age, whereas my youngest got a serious case of nipple confusion and breast refusal from 48 hours of light binkie use – hence why we didn’t introduce a bottle.
  • Babies wake for many reasons during the night, and fuss for many reasons during the day – fussiness and frequent night waking are not necessarily signs of low milk supply.
  • You are not doing anything wrong by feeding your baby on cue and holding them when they want to be held.
    Co-sleeping is a great way to make meeting your baby’s nighttime needs easier, whilst maximising the amount of sleep you get. Ensure you follow guidelines for safe co-sleeping .
  • You don’t have to swear off certain foods and drinks just because you’re breastfeeding! Many mums choose to avoid caffeine and alcohol whilst nursing because negligible amounts will get to baby, but the odd glass of wine or your daily cup of coffee is not going to hurt baby.
  • Despite what is said, breastfeeding won’t necessarily help you lose the baby weight! Eat a healthy balanced diet** and your body will naturally find the weight that your particular body needs to be at whilst nursing. Some women find the weight falls off, others don’t. Either way, trust your body to know what amount of fat it needs to store.
  • Remember that breastfeeding is so much more than just a method of getting milk into your baby.
    Despite what your doctor may say, you might not have to stop breastfeeding to take certain drugs – there is usually an alternative. If they cannot find an alternative, check Hale’s Medications and Mothers Milk – this manual has extensive information about the safety of specific drugs during breastfeeding.
  • The right time to stop breastfeeding is when it is no longer mutually desired – not when others think you should.
    Take a flask of herbal tea to bed with you to make night feedings more pleasant! (OK, I have to make a confession here… I totally took hot chocolate instead…)
  • If in doubt, seek advice! If you think your latch is wrong, have somebody qualified – a lactation consultant, LLL Leader or Peer Supporter, NCT Breastfeeding Supporter etc – check it for you. Remember – nobody should put their hands on you whilst showing you how to breastfeed.
  • Surround yourself with other breastfeeding mums!
  • Trust your body and your baby!
  • If, for whatever reason, breastfeeding doesn’t work out the way you’d hoped, don’t beat yourself up! Bottlefeeding does not automatically make you a bad/lazy/selfish mother, just as breastfeeding doesn’t automatically make you a good one.
  • ~~~

     

    Please add your contributions! What breastfeeding tips or advice would you offer a new mum? What’s the best (and worst) piece of breastfeeding advice you have heard?

    **The aforementioned Healthy Balanced Diet should always include chocolate.  It should, I swear.

    Comments

    1. says

      One of the worst pieces of advice I got from friends while I was pregnant was that I needed to “rough up” my nipples to prepare for the beating they’d get once I started nursing. This seemed a little ridiculous to me, I didn’t do it, and everything has been fine.

    2. says

      This is a perfect post! Everyone I know who tried to breastfeed told me their supply “ran out” inexplicably and I’m sure it wasn’t true in most, if any, of those cases. I bite my tongue because what’s done is done but I hate that new moms are constantly being warned that they are likely to dry up at any moment.

      • says

        Oh goodness, absolutely! I remember waiting for the day that my supply would dry up with my first… thankfully when he was 4mo I went on the LLL peer supporters course and learned that suddenly drying up is pretty darn rare!

        One girl I knew told me that she really enjoyed breastfeeding but had to stop because her baby ‘got colic’ and drunk her dry… I didn’t really know what to say to her. I tried to gently explain that that isn’t how breastfeeding works and that maybe he was having a growth spurt, but she wouldn’t have it. Like you said, what’s done is done but it’s very frustrating when you see these people spreading the misinformation far and wide so that others lose their faith in their body’s ability to nourish their kids.

        Thanks so much for commenting :)

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